John Wayne and Sophia Loren star in Henry Hathaway's Saharan adventure film. Optimum UK R2 DVD
Bonnard arrives in Timbuktu looking for a guide to take him out to the
Sahara and is introduced to the local drunkard Joe January (John Wayne)
who knows the desert well. Meanwhile, Bonnard finds his pocket picked
and decides to try and 'save' the culprit Dita (Sophia Loren)
with biblical salvation. Having never had any attention from men
except for lust, she follows Paul and Joe's tracks into the desert and
soon catches up to join their party. Paul is very mysterious about the
location of their trip but eventually reveals that he is looking for a
lost city in the desert, with massive wealth in its walls. After
struggling through the sand they do find something, but it is not what
they would expect...
hard working Ben Hecht provides the storyline and on first impressions
it is nothing too original - the desert adventure story has been a
literary highlight since the great days of H. Rider Haggard and his kin
- however Hecht tries hard to avoid the usual clichés and instead
focuses on the characterisation of the trio, particularly that of Paul
who undergoes an amazing transformation. This focus on the characters
is so strong that Hecht never needs to add a single gratuitous action
scene to keep the audience interested (so the usual scenes with Bedouin
on camels being fought off are not present here). Of course this does
mean that the film is pretty slowly paced and anyone looking for an
action adventure film will be sorely disappointed, but for someone with
patience it contains a number of unexpected twists and turns and builds
up to a superb climax.
The film was largely shot in the Lybian
deserts and Henry Hathaway (aided by cinematographer Jack Cardiff)
makes the most of them with some beautiful scenery and long shots to
make it clear that we are not just on a studio set - in fact there is
not a single set throughout the exterior scenes, not even in the
close-ups and the only optical effect in the whole film is a brief shot
of some bats, done as an animation (which does look rather poor).
Euro-cult regular Angelo Francesco Lavagnino provides a typical
orchestral soundtrack for much of the runtime, with a few good scenes
containing native chanting.
of the most famous actors in American during the 1950s, John Wayne had
come to fame as a cowboy but was trying to escape the typecasting and
during the decade made just five Old West films, focusing instead on
the Second World War (Flying Leathernecks (1951)) and general adventure films such as this one. Despite that, he still plays a very cowboyesque character and that gruff anti-heroic role he would play throughout most of his later films.
Sophia Loren was just breaking into Hollywood in 1957, thanks to Boy on a Dolphin (1957) and The Pride and the Passion
(1957) - in keeping with those films, and a long way from her more
usual glamorous appearance, Loren plays a grubby local girl with
questionable morals and plays the part very convincingly. The final
member of the trio is Rossano Brazzi, an Italian actor who had made a
few appearances in international productions, including David Lean's Summertime (1955) - his is probably the toughest role to play and he does so very well.
Not the action packed adventure film that the setting suggests, Legend of the Lost
is a strong character study that avoids becoming dull thanks to a well
written script, some good acting and some very strong location
shooting. Adventure film fans with a little patience should certainly
enjoy this and it is of interest to fans of Loren and Wayne.
Anyone famous in it?
John Wayne - legendary American actor best known for his lead role in John Ford's The Searchers (1956) Sophia Loren - the Italian sex symbol who also appeared in Charlton Heston epic El Cid (1961)
Directed by anyone interesting?
Henry Hathaway - a Hollywood regular who also helmed John Wayne vehicles The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) and True Grit (1969) as well as the classic adventure film The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)
Who is it for?
Of interest for fans of Sophia Loren and John Wayne, recommended to patient adventure movie fans.
Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print is generally very good with only mild speckling and a little grain.
English mono - sounds fine throughout, although a little on the quiet side.
The disc includes:
A theatrical trailer that tries to show all the action scenes.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Also available in the US from MGM - includes the trailer, with French audio and English, French and Spanish subs.
Believed to be fully uncut. English language print
An enjoyable film if you are not expecting any action, with some good writing and direction. Of interest.
A good looking and sounding print but if you want the French audio or the subs, pick up the R1 disc.